No matter how skilled you are as a businessperson, you’ll eventually need some support. And it’ll need to come from someone you can count on; someone who rounds out your weaknesses, pushes you further, helps you flourish, sees things from a different perspective, and prevents you from making poor decisions during times of crisis (and they will come!). In other words, a trustworthy business partner.
Sure, there will always be individuals who prefer to tackle the business world solo, but most entrepreneurs achieve more when working with one, or even two, business partners.
Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s not about finding a partner just for the sake of having one. Instead, you need to match up with someone who can give you the power to be creative, help solve problems, and improve your internal organization, while keeping you accountable. In fact, although this might be cliché, a business partnership is a lot like a marriage—you’re joined by a legal contract, you’ll likely be spending lots of time together, and in order for the relationship to work, you’ll need to round out their weaknesses. And vice-versa.
In the end, smart business people succeed because they surround themselves with the right people. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I knew all of this when I was selecting my business partner. Sure, I knew something felt right, but it wasn’t until later down the road that I was able to pinpoint exactly why we’ve worked (and continue to work) so well together.
Today, I’ll share some of these key elements with you. Why? To make identifying the right qualities and personality traits in your next business partner as easy as possible. Some of these you might know, while others could be new; either way, my hope is that they can help you discern between a partnership that could help you flourish, and one that’ll only cause you to falter.
1. You Must Share the Same Vision
Although it might seem obvious, you and your business partner need to share the same vision. You might have different backgrounds, talents, skills, etc., but you need to be focused on the same big picture. For example:
- If you’re launching a startup that focuses on creating apps for local brick-and-mortar small businesses, you and your partner must believe in the power—and necessity—of apps in the modern world.
- Similarly, if you’re interested in starting a web design agency, you and your partner must share a fundamental love of web design and understand its relevance in helping other businesses grow.
In the case of HighYa, my partner and I both have a passion for effective web design that provides value to the end user.
Now, because everyone brings a unique set of talents to the table, it’s perfectly acceptable if your partner isn’t as educated about some aspects of the business—as long as they demonstrate a strong desire to learn.
It’s also completely acceptable if each of you is responsible for different day-to-day operations within the business: You might be better at design, while they have a unique knack for communicating with clients. You’re a whiz at business development, while they’re great at creating and implementing best practices.
Remember, you both live and breathe the same vision, so now it’s about using everyone’s talents to achieve that vision!
2. Trust & Respect Is Key
As I mentioned above, seeking out a partner just for the sake of having a sidekick isn’t worth it. In fact, by approaching your partnership from this perspective, you’re guaranteed to waste their time and yours.
Instead, your partner must be someone whose wisdom you genuinely respect, along with their passion, skill, and experience. Someone you trust and who inspires you, who you can lean on as a support system, and who makes up for some of your shortcomings.
Granted, you won’t always see eye-to-eye with one another. But it says a lot about the partnership if you can trust them to make the right decision, rooted in the same shared vision, to help the business grow.
When this happens (and it will!), instead of being prideful and making an ego-based decision, sometimes you need to let go and give them the opportunity to succeed or fail. And if the latter happens, be sure to give them plenty of space to own up to the fact that they were wrong. But, under no circumstances should you think you’re better than them, because that’s another surefire way to fail!
3. Trust & Respect Is Reciprocal
Of course, all of this trust and respect isn’t a one-way street. Not by a long shot. Your ideal partner should also trust in your foresight, even if they don’t necessarily agree with your approach right out of the gate.
Certainly, your partner shouldn’t be a “yes man” (or woman) and automatically agree with everything you bring them. But they shouldn’t immediately shoot you down, either. Instead—like with everything else in life—there’s a balance somewhere in the middle. And if you can’t consistently find this balance, then you’re probably not the right fit for one another.
Wrong about something? Admit it. Just like you expect from them, it’s your responsibility to build trust by consistently demonstrating that you have the backbone to own up and learn from your mistakes.
4. When One Speaks, the Other Listens
When it comes to business partnerships (or just about any other relationship we have in life), the phrase, “The more junk that accumulates, the heavier the load will be” is especially pertinent. Why? Because if you’re not able to communicate and maturely discuss problems, then likely won’t be a long-lived partnership.
For example: Six months ago, you and your business partner had a big fight about where to put your marketing money. Instead of listening, you were both just thinking of how to reply while the other person talked, which ultimately got you nowhere. To this day, although you might have moved past the issue itself, the basic concerns that caused the disagreement in the first place remain unresolved.
Since that time, there are dozens of things about the business you wanted to bring up, but were afraid to create hostility, put your partner outside their comfort zone, or come off as confrontational. In a very real way, your channels of communication—the very lifeblood of your business—are now restricted like a dam holding back water. And over time, the burden of this restriction will continue to get heavier and heavier, impacting your effectiveness and your business’s bottom line.
Again, since we’re imperfect people in an imperfect world, an occasional disagreement (even a big one!) is to be expected. It’s just part of life. But if there always seems to be underlying friction, or if your partner constantly shies away from serious talks, then they’re probably not the ideal candidate to work with.
Remember, you and your partner need to act as a support system for one another, and if you constantly feel like you’re not be heard, it’s going to make for one tough partnership. That I can promise.
5. Practical Positivity
You shouldn’t expect your business partner to be positive and upbeat 24 hours a day, but they should maintain a glass-half-full mindset most of the time.
Ask yourself: Is your partner typically optimistic or pessimistic toward any new ideas and developments? Do they always see the good in others, or do they automatically look down on them? Do they immediately pass judgment, or are they quick to forgive any wrongdoings?
Why is all of this important? Because negativity automatically creates limits and boundaries. And unless you want to help them change, this kind of negativity can become increasingly infectious the more you’re around it. Why would you want to handicap your business (and your potential income) by choosing a negative partner?
Bonus: Don’t Give Friends Or Family a Free Pass
When first launching your business partner “talent search,” close friends and family members might be some of the first people you’ll consider. After all, you know them better than most, so they’d make an ideal partner, right? Not necessarily. Instead, only choose them if they possess most of the qualities we talked about above.
Why do I mention this? Because, regardless of who you go into business with, one of two things is going to happen throughout the process: 1) You’ll become even closer, or 2) you’ll be driven apart. Why jeopardize a great friendship or a relationship with a beloved family member over a business venture? Follow the tips above, and you should be able to avoid any awkward family gatherings.
And I speak from experience. In the past, I’ve considered partnering up with close friends, but I detected a few things I believed wouldn’t serve either of us well from a business standpoint. As such, I quickly realized, “Hey, It’s better not to partner up with this person, because I want to remain friends.” Which we are to this very day. If we would have gone into business with each other, I’m not sure I’d be able to say the same.
Bringing It All Together
You’ve probably read the phrase “Be the change you wish to see in the world” before. But when it comes to your success, it might be better phrased, “Be the example you’re looking for in your next business partner.”
Just like you, the perfect business partner might not possess all of the qualities we’ve talked about today, but they must 1) be keen and eager to learn, and 2) share your big-picture vision. And it’s a two-way street, because they should be evaluating you using the same criteria.
Ultimately, like almost every other relationship we’re involved in, you’re not going to be compatible with everyone. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people; just that for whatever reason, they’re not a good fit for you.
Well, the exact same scenario applies to business. But unlike other relationships, where you might end up with interesting stories to tell, a bad business partnership can leave you in debt and jaded. Instead, by analyzing these five “timeless truths,” you’ll be able to solve just about any road bump that comes your way.